'Betrayed' bus drivers threaten Friday strike unless they get $250 bonus

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 June, 2006, 12:00am

Commuters and other road users could still face chaos this week, with disgruntled bus drivers claiming a trade union had 'betrayed' them by striking a pay deal with bosses on Monday.

In negotiations on Monday with a union representing half of their 4,000 drivers, Citybus and New World First Bus agreed to a back-dated pay rise of 1.8 per cent for driver earning more than $9,000 a month or a flat $165 a month for those earning less than that.

The two companies say the pay offers will cost them an extra $18 million a year.

Staff unions representing the companies' other 2,000 drivers are also demanding that they receive a one-off $250 bonus and are threatening to strike on Friday if they don't get it.

The KMB group, which operates Kowloon Motor Bus and Long Win Bus, has agreed to pay such a bonus on top of a 1.4 per cent pay rise for its 8,000 drivers.

The City Bus and New World First Bus staff unions say they never agreed to the deal negotiated with parent company NSW Holdings by the Motor Transport Workers General Union.

New World First Bus staff union director Chung Chung-fai said they never agreed to the deal.

'We were betrayed, and I am telling you we are not the only ones. The whole workforce in Hong Kong has been betrayed,' he said.

The two staff unions had been demanding pay rises of 4.25 and 4.5 per cent, but the company rejected these as too high.

Mr Chung conceded his union was in a difficult position given that at least half the 4,000 drivers for New World First Bus and Citybus had accepted the companies' proposed pay rise. But he vowed to do his best as he entered the bus companies' headquarters at 6pm for a new round of negotiations.

Louis Pong Wai-yan, executive director of the Employers' Federation of Hong Kong, said union activism had made the relationship between employers and workers more extreme in recent years.

'I am worried that the employer-worker relationship is becoming more political,' he said. 'If what the workers petition for is reasonable, of course it should be backed, but in some cases the unions are actually telling the workers what they should ask for.'